Blog - NJ7 Citizens for Change

Why Today's Elections Are A BIG Test For The Activists Fighting Trump

  Click here to learn about Westfield NJ activist Group 20/20. Their resistance WILL bring change to 7th Congressional District! Will you join them? 
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Rep. Suzan DelBene (WA) Shines a Light on the Fundamental Unfairness of the GOP Tax Plan

Thank you Congresswoman Suzan DelBene for this incisive line of questioning. In less than three minutes you show who is going to be hurt by this plan: Join us as we put pressure on our elected officials to oppose this tax plan. Your voice matters.  
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Who is Being Left Out? GOP Tax Plan

  Recently, I wrote about the tax misconceptions that are being used to sell a tax proposal that will only widen the economic gap between the top and the bottom earners of our society.  By one estimate, in 2012, 50% of all income went to the top 10% of our earners.  These are the people who will be the beneficiary of the tax reform.  It is worth noting that when you earn at that level, you tend to accumulate wealth.  Thus, in 2010 the top 1% of the US population owned 42.1% of personal property wealth; the next 4% owned 30% of personal property wealth; the next 15% owned 23.5% of such wealth (totaling 95.6% for the top 20% combined); the bottom 80% of the population owned 4.7% of personal property wealth.  Let’s spend a little time looking at the other end of the spectrum.  The National Employment Law Project, an organization that supports raising the minimum wage and the unionization of workers, released a study showing that over 40% of American workers make less than $15/hour, or $31,000 annually for full time work. Women, Black and Latinos are disproportionately represented, but the total includes 38% of whites. It is families with wage earners in this category that are buried in the IRS statistic that 62% of families filing returns have a total household income of less than $50,000.   Depending where you live, maybe you can get by on $50,000 per annum, but it is a struggle.  Harder, of course, as the number drops. You may pay little or no Federal Income Tax, but as discussed previously, you pay about $3800 in payroll taxes to support Social Security and Medicare. You should qualify for healthcare insurance subsidies, whether or not you have a preexisting condition, to buy health insurance, including the 10 essential benefits, under the Affordable Care Act.  Your children will likely be covered by CHIP, which costs $10 a month.  Well, the Republican Congress would still like to end “Obamacare”, and provide the option for low cost, high deductible insurance policies.  That is great if you have no pre-existing condition.  Good luck if you get sick.  And CHIP will run out of money in March.  Congress has so far stalled on renewing funding . . . .  Included in the 62% with household incomes below $50,000 are all those reliant on Medicaid. Medicaid is the nation’s public health insurance program for low-income children, adults, seniors, and people with disabilities.  According to Kaiser Permanente, in 2014, there were 80 million enrollees. The disabled received most of the $462.8 billion expenditure - 40%; followed by the elderly (21%), children (19%) and adults (19%).  And those adults? About 60 percent of non-disabled Medicaid adult enrollees have a job. As for kids, 45% of all births are covered by Medicaid, and 39% of children depend on Medicaid for their healthcare.  A staggering 62% of nursing home residents are covered by Medicaid.  And yet, when last we heard, Medicaid is to be the subject of a $1 trillion cut over the next ten years to fund the Republican tax reforms.    So when your Congressman tells you the tax cuts will benefit the middle class, ask him exactly who he means by the middle.  And we, as Democrats, have to be much more assertive in explaining what we will do to spread the wealth and the opportunity of our country more evenly.  Even if that means the Koch brothers will have to get by with a little less . . . .
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We’re Being Buffaloed

We’re being buffaloed over “tax reform.”  From what we know so far about the mysterious workings of the Washington Republican cabal, we will be presented with a proposal that massively rewards the professional political donor classes.  Joe Six-Pack? Forget it!  To help us swallow our bad medicine, we are being dealt a steady diet of tax mythologies.  Here are some of them, and responses you can try on your favorite Congressman.  “America is the highest taxed nation in the world.” We often hear the CinC assert this.  By any number of measures, it is a flat out falsehood.  Of the 35 major developed economies that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), looking at total tax revenue as a fraction of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the US has the fourth-LOWEST tax burden of any OECD country, with only South Korea, Chile, and Mexico ranking lower.  Perhaps he means we have the highest marginal tax rate?  Nope, we are in the middle of the pack (18th) on that score.  Well how about Joe Six-pack? If you are a single person earning the US median wage of $56 000, your tax burden would rank as #16 in the OECD list; if you are married with two kids, your tax burden drops to #25.  “American Corporate taxes are crippling US competitiveness.”  The American corporate tax rate of 35% is the highest in the world, it is true.  In fact, because the tax structure is riddled with loopholes, when the dust settles, and we ask what the effective tax rate is, then we pay the 4th highest level of corporate taxes.  If we drop to 15% as Mr. Trump originally proposed, we would drop to the 4th lowest.  But even so, this misses the point on two levels.  First, corporate taxes are not crippling US competitiveness. Let’s ask Warren Buffett.  He knows a thing or two about American corporations and their earnings.  “When American business talks about strangling our competitiveness, or that sort of thing, they’re talking about something [corporate taxation] that as a percentage of G.D.P. has gone down,” Mr. Buffett says.   And indeed, in 1960, corporate taxes in the United States were about 4% of GDP. Today, they are 1.9 percent.  If you express that as a percentage of all tax revenue collected in the US, corporations pay about 9%, a fraction that has been declining steadily (in the 1950’s it was 33%).   Mr Buffett says there IS something that is crippling American competitiveness - medical costs. “Medical costs are the tapeworm of American economic competitiveness,”  he says.  According to the Tax Policy Center, in 2015, corporations paid $343,797 million in federal taxes, out of a total of $3.2 trillion collected. Interestingly, that number, $3.2 trillion, is what the entire US spent on health care in 2015, according to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).  The CMS says that private companies paid 20% of that total, or $640,000 million.  Mr.  Buffett is right; if we want to do something for American corporations, we should get them out of the healthcare business.  There are plenty of ways to do that, as most OECD nations have discovered to the universal benefit of the health of their citizenry. . . .  “35% of the population pay no taxes.” We’re getting to Mitt Romney and the “takers” here.  It is true that 35% of filers pay no federal income tax, either because they had no taxable income, or they didn't end up owing any income tax due to credits, deductions, and other adjustments.  But if you are employed, pretty much everyone pays payroll taxes-- those line items on your pay stub that go to pay for Social Security and Medicare. Indeed,  according to the Treasury Department, all but the top-earning 20% of American families pay more in payroll taxes than in federal income taxes.  And those payroll taxes make up a big chunk of federal revenue-- about a third, compared to just under a half for income tax.  And of course, sales and property taxes mean that many people in lower tax brackets are in fact paying significantly higher effective tax rates.   “The top 20% pay 80% of all taxes.” That’s pretty much true for federal income tax; actually, it is the top 16%, those with adjusted gross incomes over $100,000.  What the statement does not capture is the huge rise in the wealth of the super rich, the top 1% of the population, and the rate at which their wealth is increasing. The top 1% are taking home more than 20 percent of all income; and the gap between the wealthiest Americans and the rest of us gets larger every year.  Since much income at that level derives from capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate than regular earnings, the effective tax rate at this level is much lower than the current top marginal rate of 39.6%. Warren Buffett, who famously pointed out that his tax rate was lower than his secretary’s, has long advocated for a minimum tax on top wage earners -- the so-called Buffett Rule, which is fiercely opposed by Republicans.  Mr. Trump would have us believe that the super rich need more help, to be paid for by the rest of us.  “The President’s tax plan will benefit the middle classes.” We await with bated breath the appearance of the final plan, but estimates from the outline suggest that more than two-thirds (67 percent) of the tax cuts contained in the framework would go to the richest one percent of Americans in 2018. These taxpayers are projected to have incomes of at least $615,800 next year.  “Repealing the Death Tax will save the family farm.” This claim, or versions of it, has been around for years, as a battle cry to eliminate the Estate Tax.  In fact, fewer than the wealthiest two of every 1,000 estates nationwide owed any estate tax in 2016.  So, if you are not in the 99.9% percentile, don’t lose any sleep over this.  The Koch brothers, on the other hand, lose a lot of sleep over it.  They and their friends are behind the repeal of this tax.    “Increased growth will make up for the loss of revenue.” It has never happened in the past; it will not happen now.  Someone once said that “the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing.”  Right now, the Koch brothers and their friends are hissing the loudest!  So when your Congressman feeds you some of this misinformation to sell you on the plan — HISS!!!  
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Have You Had Enough Yet?

  Have you had enough yet?Have you had it with assaults on healthcare?Does a $1 trillion cut in Medicaid and $480 million cut in Medicare sound immoral to you?Are you sick of hearing about tax cuts for the wealthy funded by our state and local tax deduction?Are you tired of the Koch brothers and their unholy influence?When your contributory pension scheme is gone, does an assault on your 401K feel like the last straw?Do you feel we have a misogynistic, sexist man-child in the White House?Are you outraged at the rape and pillage of the EPA and all that protects our environment?Are you appalled by the moral equivalence given to white supremacy and those who protest it?Are you revolted by the failure of most Republicans to call “enough”?Are you still waiting for that infrastructure spend we were promised?Do you think we will EVER have a new tunnel under the Hudson?Well, all politics is local. It starts with YOU. With YOUR vote for YOUR local representatives. For YOUR State representatives. If we want to change the House in 2018, then we need to start NOW in 2017.Send a message. Enough IS enough!Vote early if you can. Vote on November 7 if you can’t. And bring a friend or a neighbor.But above all else ....... VOTE!!!!!
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Congressman Koch?

    Hey, remember Donald Trump, who was going to look after the interests of the little guy? Who was going to drain the swamp? He is caught in the confines of his own adult day care center. Anything of economic significance that emerges from the White House, such as the budget and tax “reform” instead has the impramatur of the Koch Brothers all over it.  If you read Jane Meyers’s “Dark Money”, you know about the “Kochtopus”, and the tentacles it has wrapped about the body politic.  If you read her recent New Yorker article about Mike Pence, then you know that he is the Koch brothers’ surrogate at the elbow of Donald Trump, and that even Steve Bannon fears that “he’d be a President that the Kochs would own.”  Should Pence disappear, the Kochs have deeply infected the White House with their virulent corporate agenda.  Check out the 16 Trump Departmental appointees with deep roots working with the Kochs and their political advocacy group, “Americans for Prosperity”.  No, “tax reform” was written for the benefit of the Koch brothers and their ilk.  They enthusiastically support the White House tax-cut package, which, as I have said before, will disproportionately benefit the super-rich.  As Jane Meyer reports in her article, that bastion of left-liberalism Steve Bannon said “The Kochs are a hundred per cent with you, so long as it means cutting taxes for the Kochs. Anything that will help the middle-class people? Forget it.”  The Kochs’ public voice, Americans for Prosperity plans an ad campaign to get Democratic votes behind the tax plan.  Should you see those ads, remember whose interests AFP represent.  Oh. By the way.  Guess who likes Congressman Leonard Lance?  Check out these headlines: Americans for Prosperity Praises Rep. Garrett and Rep. Lance for Standing Up Against Corporate Welfare AFP Praises Six New Jersey Congressmen for ObamaCare Repeal Vote  AFP Applauds Congressman Lance For Backing Death Tax Repeal  And the AFP  “ranks members of Congress based on their votes for economic freedom”.  Guess who is number one on their list for NJ?  You guessed it, squeezing out even Rodney Frelinghuysen and Tom MacArthur, with a 79% lifetime approval rating.  Hardly surprising — when you vote 93.8% of the time for the Trump agenda, you are voting for the Kochs.  When you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.  Let’s rid ourselves of this infestation, and elect a NJ7 representative who will look after OUR interests, rather than the interests of those who live in Wichita, Kansas.  
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Whatever Happened to Kansas?

Whatever happened to Kansas? We still don’t know much about the details of tax reform.  And the scheme clearly is to tell us as little as possible until a final vote is imminent.  We have been promised that the loss of tax revenue will be more than made up by accelerated growth - but as the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget points out “the country would need roughly 4.5% sustained growth to pay for the entire tax plan – two-and-a-half times the 1.8 percent that CBO projects to occur over the next decade”.   If you don’t believe the CRFB, let’s ask whatever happened to Kansas?  Governor Sam Brownback and his allies enacted tax and spending cuts in 2012 and 2013, arguing - like the Trump administration - that it would lead to an explosion of economic growth. It didn’t.  The explosive growth occurred in the State’s budget deficit, which is expected to hit $280 million this year, despite major spending reductions in Medicaid, education, court funding, infrastructure.  Once voters saw the link between tax revenues and the benefits to society that can flow from that revenue, they were willing to pay higher taxes.   What makes us think that at the national level, the results will be any different?  As in Kansas, most of the benefit, insofar as we can tell at present, will go to the top 1% .  If you live in NJ, the annual income required to be in the top one percent is $547,737; and the average annual income of the top one percent is $1,453,741.  Sound like you?  If it does, you will likely benefit by an average of $37,240 per year.  If you are in the stratospheric top 0.1%, you will likely benefit by about $207,390.  If you are in the middle 20% of all earners, about $300 will trickle down to you. And the trade of? A $1 trillion cut in Medicaid over 10 years.  If you think that won’t affect you, remember that Medicaid covers almost two-thirds of nursing home residents, including many who are middle class and spent of all their savings on care before becoming eligible.  And if you manage to stay out of a nursing home, don’t forget the $473 billion in Medicare cuts coming your way.  Kansas tried to balance the books on the back of school kids, by attempting to cut the education budget, and “emergency” shortening of the school year.  Really? Oh, by the way.  Those legislators who supported Brownback and his scheme?  Many were voted out in 2016, and a veto by Brownback was overridden by the state legislature to reverse most of his coveted taxation changes. Let’s not wait until our kids and grandkids are furloughed before making a change in NJ7!            
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Too Late, Lance (Health Insurance to rise as much as 28% in 2018)

NJ7 Congressman Leonard (I'm not a moderate but I play one on television) ​Lance is on TV again, talking about the Problem Solver Caucus and their hope to fix healthcare. It's an admirable bi-partisan caucus but what Lance neglects to admit is that he's trying to solve a problem that he help to create in the first place. With his Executive Order ending CSR payment that stabilize the health insurance marketplace, Trump has thrown a grenade into healthcare. No, not a figurative grenade, a real one. Health insurance rates are expected to rise by up to 28% in 2018 for individuals and small businesses in New Jersey and this is going to hurt a lot of people in the state and in the country just like a real grenade would. Read this story in NJ Spotlight to understand exactly what is happening. Do not, for a second, let your conservative friends blame Obamacare for these increases and the collateral damage that this Executive Order will cause. The GOP has held absolute and total control of Washington for the entire year. They have had the means and the votes to make meaningful and significant improvements to healthcare in this country, but every single plan that they have put forth has stunk. Simple as that. And they put a man in the White House that threw the grenade. Now Lance, who helped give that man the grenade, is saying, "That grenade made a mess! Let me help clean up!" It's too late, Lance, to pretend to be a moderate. Your chance was in November 2016 when you could have placed country above party instead of saying "Donald Trump will have my enthusiastic support for President." You and your party endorsed a man that lacked the intellect, temperament, and compassion for the highest office in the land. Everyone knew it and every single worse case scenario is coming true. You blew it, Congressman Lance, and now every terrible tweet and every terrible and divisive Executive Order issued from the White House has your fingerprint on it.
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Dark Days for American Values

These are dark days for American values. To have two former Presidents speak out so forcefully on the same day is a sign of the havoc that the Trump administration has wrought on the political establishment.“We’ve seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America,” Mr. Bush said. “We see a fading confidence in the value of free markets and international trade, forgetting that conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism. We’ve seen the return of isolationist sentiments, forgetting that American security is directly threatened by the chaos and despair of distant places.” “Bigotry seems emboldened” and “our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories and outright fabrication.”Barack Obama: “What we can’t have is the same old politics of division that we have seen so many times before that dates back centuries”, Mr. Obama said. “Some of the politics we see now, we thought we put that to bed. That has folks looking 50 years back. It’s the 21st century, not the 19th century. Come on!”But Donald Trump was elected, and he was elected in part by a large body of voters who feel that the establishment has not looked after their interests. That electorate is not going to be helped by the current Republican Party, Congressman Lance included, based on the tax bill working its way through Congress.No. It is up to the Democratic Party to find a way to address the economic insecurity and the deterioration in the standard of living that many electors feel. The viability of the great American democratic experiment demands it.Can we make NJ the epicenter of a great change in our politics? President Obama thinks so: ““The world asks what our values and ideals are and are we living up to our creed. And just as the world is looking to us, in 19 days the world is going to be looking at New Jersey.”Vote! Vote Vote!
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NJ7 and the Iran Deal

  Congressman Lance posed a question to his constituents recently:  “President Trump last week said Iran was not complying with the 2015 nuclear arms deal negotiated by the Obama Administration and without the consent of Congress. What action do you think Congress should now take?  Kill the deal and impose new, immediate sanctions.  Renegotiate a better deal.  Keep the 2015 agreement in place.”   The last time I checked, the poll was running about 64% in favor of keeping the 2015 agreement in place.  Will the Congressman take the response of his constituents in account if he is called upon to vote?  I am not a diplomat, nor an expert on treaty negotiations.  I am a scientist, and I listen to what scientists have to say.  For me, it was very telling when in August 2008, twenty-nine of the nation’s top scientists — including Nobel laureates, veteran makers of nuclear arms and former White House science advisers — wrote to President Obama in praise of the deal.  And this was not a collection of “lefty liberal” scientists.  For example, the list included the very distinguished Princeton physicist Freeman Dyson.  Professor Dyson has long been a thorn in the side of liberals for his unwavering contrarian views on climate change.   In January 2017, 37 scientists, including many of the original 29, signed a letter to President Trump, urging him to abide by the deal.  “We urge you to preserve this critical U.S. strategic asset,” they said.  At the highest levels of the administration, there is agreement that Iran is not in breech.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, "We don't dispute that they're under technical compliance" with the deal. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Oct. 3 that preserving the nuclear deal is in the U.S. interest.  International inspectors with the International Atomic Energy Agency have reported eight times, most recently in August, that Tehran is obeying the terms.  Germany, France and Britain have all reaffirmed their commitment to the nuclear deal, as have the other signatories, China and Russia.  Is the President simply grandstanding for his base? Posturing to Iran to put pressure on their ballistic missile program?  Or is is this just another, more dangerous, example of his animus to any legislation that has on it the fingerprints of his predecessor?  This is a nuclear minefield through which Congressman Lance would be wise to step carefully.  Will he listen to the 64% of his constituents who are urging caution?  Or will he do as he does 93.8% of the time, and vote in line with Trump’s position?
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